Whitetail buck rut nearing peak

Wisconsin State Farmer
This big boy showed up on a trail cam in Sheboygan County.

Madison — Darkness will be falling a little quicker with the end of daylight savings time and the clocks falling back an hour, but with temperatures the way they have been, there's still plenty of time to get outdoors this fall.

While several rain cells moved across the state recently, trails in state parks and forests are in good shape. Peak colors are now being reported in fewer than 10 southern and southeastern counties on the Wisconsin Department of Tourism's Fall Color Report (exit DNR). In most areas, the only fall color visible now is the muted yellows of tamarack needles and the rusty browns of oak leaves.

Hunting pressure has replaced fishing pressure across much of the state in the past two weeks, but many anglers are taking full advantage of the unseasonably warmer temperatures to still wet a line.

In the Northwoods musky continue to be the fish of choice. Strong action has been reported lately, with musky being found lingering around shallow weedy edges and suspended over deep-water areas. The recent sun and warmth have improved action for some anglers using artificial bait, with most musky landed falling in the 32 to 40 inch range. Success for walleye remains inconsistent, with live minnows still proving to be the best bait.

Pressure was low on northern Lake Michigan waters. Anglers were still landing bluegill and crappie below the dam on the Oconto River. Those fishing for musky are reporting some catches at the mouth of the Pensaukee River while perch fishing was improving off Oconto. Anglers were having success for walleye and brown trout from the Hattie Street Dam to the mouth of the Menominee River, with whitefish also starting to show up.

As the chinook salmon run comes closer to the end the fishing pressure on Lake Michigan tributaries has slowed. There were still anglers who took to the Kewaunee River over the weekend in hopes of catching one of the remaining salmon. The remaining chinook are on their last leg and are deteriorating fast, but the coho run is in full swing on some rivers and angler have also reported catching brown trout and steelhead as well.

Bow hunters have all eyes peeled as the rut really kicked off in the past week. Buck movement has increased dramatically with bucks actively pursuing does and moving all hours of the day and night. Bucks can increase their home range up to three times during the rut. As the rut ramps up, so too will car deer collisions so keep a cautious eye out for deer when driving this time of year.

Grouse are still being spotted and the turkey population has also been very visible as of late. Pheasant hunters are still out in good numbers on the stocked properties. Beginning Nov. 4, the 2 p.m. pheasant hunting closure will no longer apply on certain wildlife areas, so check the regulations for details. With the mild weather the woodcock migration seems to have come to a standstill with woodcock still around in good numbers -- very unusual in early November. Given the forecast, woodcock may be here until the Nov. 7 season closure. Larger flocks of Canada geese and sandhill cranes are being seen in southern Wisconsin and viewing opportunities have been excellent at Theresa and Horicon marshes.

With these warm temperatures, mosquitoes and ticks are still hanging around being pesky as ever. Snakes and frogs are still out, and even a few spring peepers were heard calling this week.